Sunday, August 31, 2008

Leprosy and Sin

This morning I preached on the story of Naaman. I talked about the nature of leprosy, and how it has been discovered (by the missionary doctor, Paul Brand) that the disease destroys people's bodies, not by eating away at them, but by anaesthetising the nervous system so the person, no longer feeling pain, causes the injury themselves.

"The resulting nerve damage causes loss of sensation in the extremities, eyes, and eyelids. Because of lack of sensation the leper can be unaware of injuries to his fingers, toes, hands, or feet, resulting in the infection and loss of those members. Because of the loss of sensation in the eyes and eyelids the person does not blink and his eyes dry out, or gets dust in his eyes without knowing it causing infection, both resulting in loss of sight".

I spoke of Naaman, and how, in his pride, he didn't want to follow the one way God had ordained for his cleansing, and how we are just the same, because God has ordained a way for us to be cleansed of sin, and we deal with it in other ways -- denial, lying, making excuses, compartmentalising our lives (like Jekyll and Hyde) reinterpreting scripture to justify ourselves, blaming others etc etc.

And how are sin and leprosy alike? this was the list I came up with:

 makes us unclean
 no one is immune
 numbs us to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
 will eventually numb us so much we become self-destructive, The Bible speaks of being "hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13, NIV) and of being given over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28). And we don't even realize that it is destroying us.
 more contagious to the young and the ill-nourished
 causes isolation and destroys relationships
 in Bible times leprosy was incurable by any human means
 started out in one small area, ended up affecting the whole person
 in Jewish law even the smallest thing wrong on the skin had to be examined to see if it was the symptom of disease deep inside the person
 it produced misery, shame and disfigurement in the person’s life, taking away the joy from every earthly privilege they might have known

I finished with this quote I found from the testimony of a Chinese Christian:

"A Christian from China was giving his testimony and he said, "I had slipped into a great ditch and the ditch was sin." Buddha came along and said, "Come up half way and I will lift you up." Muhammad came along and said, "Here are five pillars that will get you out." But I couldn't get up those five pillars. Confucius came along and said, "You're not really in that ditch, you just think you're in that hole." But I was still there in the ditch of sin. Then Jesus came by and saw my predicament. He didn't say a word but laid aside his regal robes and got down in the ditch along with the sin and the mire and he lifted me out of it by his grace. The difference was his love and who he was! He who was God was willing to come down to my level in order to lift me out of sin."

Friday, August 29, 2008

No longer bright young things ..

This poem is dedicated to everyone who's ever struggled, who's ever had to learn things the hard way. it is for those who have tried to walk by faith when they could no longer remember where their faith came from, who are no longer young and beautiful, but have kept trying anyway .. Maybe that's all of us ..

No longer bright young things but old and dull
Toiling our weariness across the days
Numbed by long pain and whispers of defeat
Not unto us, Oh Lord, the brilliant blaze.

Not unto us the swift grab at the prize
Not unto us the battle laughter high;
But unto us the stark and dreadful will
And unto us the love that will not die.

Blessed are we whose eyes have seen the night
Drench its chill terror through our aching frame
Who have held on because we can’t let go
And seen the morning rise with distant flame.

Blessed are we who have not given up
But scrabbled handholds in the blistered rock
And wondered if “one more” would get us there
While scrambled thoughts whirled round us like a flock.

We shall not lead the charge nor flail our swords
Glinting with sunlight in our high salute
We falter far from any podium
And know our courage is not absolute.

And yet we know what no bright youngster knows
Have touched that tenderness that wracks the soul
From any cheaply bought or sloganed truth.
We know it is not needful to be whole.

We know we have small wisdom of our own
We know that we are broken, incomplete
We know our knowing is the least of it
And breathed that grace that lies beyond defeat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let your light so shine ..

Let's be honest -- sometimes we're just not very shiny. it doesn't take much effort to see what trimming and cleaning the lamp and refilling it with oil would be analogous to ..


Lord, my lamp is dirty, soiled by smoke
Sprung from strange fire, false longings of my soul
Seeking the sacrifices men demand,
As if I were the priest, in Jesus’ role.

There is scum here, all hardened on the glass
Where I did not burn hot and clear and bright
But smouldered sullenly with bitter heart
And wondered why I gave so faint a light.

And I have hid my lamp beneath shy flesh:
The longing to conform, to strike no fear
From walking through this timid world ablaze,
And so I posed as if You were not here.

And I have used poor fuel, not my heart’s best
And quenched your Spirit to a comfy spark
Only to shiver in despair’s stark chill
And find myself thumb-twiddling in the dark.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Definitely not Type A

This one is sooo true .. the Type A person in this house is the one I'm married to!

You Have A Type B+ Personality

You're a pro at going with the flow

You love to kick back and take in everything life has to offer

A total joy to be around, people crave your stability.

While you're totally laid back, you can have bouts of hyperactivity.

Get into a project you love, and you won't stop until it's done

You're passionate - just selective about your passions

To the Narcissist ..

Back to the theme of poems on abuse, this is about the emotional abuse suffered in relationship to a narcissist. It is a subtle kind of abuse, the gradual undermining of the victim's selfhood (a victim probably already insecure in her sense of self because some form of lack of parental affirmation). One day she wakes up and realises that while Narcissus was glorifying his own self-image, he did so at her expense, parasitically taking from her (all in the name of "love") until she is faded away to just an echo. By then she may not have enough sense of self left to know how to get disentangled.

You are the thornbush, I the clinging vine.
You are the thirst, and I the water poured.
You are the trophy, I the polish cloth
You are the desert, I the empty gourd.

You are Important – ah! So neat, so sleek!
I am the lower case, the little vowel,
You are the lion that struts the sunlit plain,
I mourn in darkness, like some faint-voiced owl.

You are supreme, complete, you have no want
Save adoration, faint praise brings your wrath.
I am the audience and you the star.
You are the trophy, I the polish-cloth.

You are the grinding heel, and I the clay
Waiting to bear your print, I have no form.
Unfit to carry meaning, I must yield,
Since I am aberration, you are norm.

Guru? me?

Not too sure about this one (h/t Kansas Bob), a lot of questions it was a toss up which way I'd answer them. besides it's terribly hard to choose between superlatives to describe yourself, I want to tone the whole thing down a bit!!

You Are the Guru

You are a naturally good counselor. You are inspiring, encouraging, and compassionate.

You are eager to help everyone who crosses your path, even those who don't want to be helped.

You are a natural healer. People feel at peace when they are with you.

You are so good for people, in fact, that they go through withdrawal once you're gone.

You quietly do your own thing, without openly resisting. You secretly try to fix every problem.

Your biggest regret is not being able to help as many people as you'd like.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Consider the Lilies ..

Did you ever realise (I hadn't thought of it) that "Consider the lilies" is actually a command?

Consider these petals,
So easily bruised,
So fragile and tentative in their beauty ..

Yet their perfume would adorn the palaces of kings
With promises of heaven,
And trampled they will Spring again
Each succeeding season,
And who can deny their renewal?

Watered by the rain from heaven,
Under rich blessing,
They struggle through the soil, seeking light that they might flourish.
Shall I find my parable there?

I have never sighted Solomon, in all his rumoured glory
But I know the cult of celebrities, in all their brittle beauty,
Polished to a paradigm
Before their star debunks.
I know the perpetual effort,
To catch the moment’s magic,
The flurry and the fury
Like chasing after wind.

Give me the lilies.
I would learn of their humility
To fear no season’s turning.
To drink of this day’s blessing, not hoarding up the manna,
Seeking to become,
The beauty of my Christ.

Take these hands ..

Not in the same league as Frances Ridley Havergal's classic, but still a seriously meant prayer ..

Take these hands, these clumsy hands,
Let their fumbling do Your will.
Take these feet, these stumbling feet
Shuffling Your commandments still.

Take this tongue, scared blurting tongue,
Let it utter words of grace
Take these shoulders stooped and bent,
Your light yoke in failure’s place.

Take these eyes and fix their gaze
On Yourself, my true desire.
Take my heart, soiled, broken heart,
Meld to wholeness in Your fire.

Take tomorrow from my grasp,
All my days are in Your hand.
Take these shackling, pris’ning fears
Till Your grace I understand.


"the Sabbath erects a weekly bastion against the commodification of time, against reducing time to money, reducing time to what we can get out of it, against leaving no time for God or beauty or anything that cannot be used or purchased. It is a defense against the hurry that desecrates time.”
-- Eugene Peterson

I love the principle, for years I have believed that the point of the Sabbath was to show that we are not slaves to this world and its material pragmatism. We exist in time, but only for a time; the sabbath is like raising our heads to breathe a different air.

That being said, I have no idea what, in our Christian liberty, the Sabbath should actually look like in practice. Certainly the legalistic dreariness of the puritan/Victorian version chills my soul. But there is a principle we forget at our peril, that we need to have time for the unnecessary, the immaterial, whatever is pure and lovely, whatever refreshes us from the grimness of daily life. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? We need time to re-attach our souls to the things that are unseen, and so much greater than the things that are seen, and to be reminded that even in the most ordinary dailiness of life, we were created for worship.